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Contradictions emerge during Opry arson trial
Updated on: 01.29.14

On the witness stand Tuesday, former Little Nashville Opry owner Esther Hamilton stated that neither she nor the country music venue were in financial trouble.

“I never owed a dime when the Opry burned,” she said.

On Wednesday, Alan Strange, a forensic auditor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified otherwise.

He said Hamilton and the Opry owed roughly $1.5 million in short- and long-term loans and operating expenses such as utilities, insurance and performer fees on Sept. 19, 2009. That was the day someone poured an ignitable liquid on and near the Opry stage and lit it on fire.

At the same time, the five Opry banking accounts contained a total of about $8,500, according to the ATF.

On day five of testimony, Prosecutor Jim Oliver focused on the gambling habits of Hamilton and the person she called her best friend, 77-year-old James D. Bowyer.

Bowyer is the former Opry business manager on trial for allegedly starting the fire that destroyed the Opry.

Oliver asked Strange to explain his findings from four Indiana casinos. The ATF officer said records from 2005 to 2009 show that Hamilton visited the casinos on 816 days. She spent $4.2 million and lost $152,000.

During the same time frame, Bowyer lost $163,000, while betting $1.7 million during 650 visits, according to Strange.

Hamilton testified that Bowyer did not gamble. She added that she gambled just “a couple times a month” when she got the chance.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney John Boren asked multiple witnesses if they were aware that Hamilton suffered a stroke in May 2013. Those who knew about the stroke indicated that the effects of it continue to linger.

On cross examination of Strange, Boren wanted to know if his investigation showed any evidence that Bowyer owned stock in Little Nashville Enterprises or contracted with the corporation that owned the Opry. Strange answered no to both matters.

Boren got Strange to say that the burning of the Opry differed in outcome from the sale of the Opry. A sale would have resulted in Bowyer receiving roughly $300,000, according to four promissory notes Bowyer wrote that were salvaged from the fire debris.

Strange also agreed that the Opry could have been rebuilt from the more than $3 million in insurance proceeds if the claim had been paid out.

The insurance money was never awarded. A judge ruled in favor of the insurance company because more than 50 percent of the sprinkler system had been dismantled, according to court records.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Oliver said he plans to rest the state’s side of the case by midday.

Read more in the Feb. 5 issue of the Brown County Democrat.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Phillip Michael 'Mike' Mathis, 63, Nashville
  Brother of Cathy (Steve) Junken and Melanie (Darian) McBride, both of Nashville

Dorothy Louise (Tripp) Zimmerman, 84, Linton
  Former resident of Brown County

Karen J. Wampler, 78, Columbus
  Sister of Rod Sanburn of Nashville

  • July 30
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • July 30
    Gospel jam & sing in Gnaw Bone
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • July 30
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • July 30
    'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' at the Playhouse
    7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 30
    Rotary Club food booth at county fair
    4 to 10 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • July 30
    Thursday at Brown County State Park Nature Center
    11 a.m., 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • July 31
    Farmers market in Bean Blossom July 31
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, 11 State Road 45 at 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • July 31
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • July 31
    Live dulcimer music at history center
    2 to 4 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • July 31
    Fingerstyle guitar festival spans three days
    7 p.m. to Pine Room, 51 E. Chestnut St.
  • July 31
    'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • July 31
    Rotary Club food booth at county fair
    4 to 10 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • July 31
    Wildflower walk at state park
    2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • July 31
    Dave Miller at sports bar
    8 to 10 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • July 31
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 1
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • August 1
    Free clothes, supplies for students Aug. 1 at intermediate school
    9 a.m to 1 p.m. BC Intermediate School, 260 School House Lane
  • August 1
    Rotary Club food booth at county fair
    4 to 10 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • August 1
    Acoustic guitar festival hosted at Playhouse
    11 to 4 p.m., 7:30 to 10 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 1
    Live music at The Season's poolside
    6 to 9 p.m. The Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • August 1
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • August 1
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 2
    Read to dogs at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 2
    CSVFD serves pancake breakfast
    7:30 to 11:30 a.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • August 2
    Guitar and performance workshops planned
    10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brown County Inn, 51 State Road 46 East
  • August 2
    Read to a dog at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 2
    'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 2
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • August 4
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • August 4
    Brown County Council
    2 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • August 4
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • August 4
    Time for inner peace set at local church
    5:30 to 7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • August 6
    Nashville Town Council
    6 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • August 6
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 6
    'Jurassic World' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 7
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • August 7
    'Ghostbusters' at the Playhouse
    7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 7
    'Jurassic World' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 7
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 8
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • August 8
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • August 8
    Tribute to John Denver at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 8
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 8
    Donations accepted for Habitat garage sale
    9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • August 9
    'Jurassic World' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • August 10
    Beeline beekeepers club
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 11
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • August 11
    Time for inner peace set at local church
    5:30 to 7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • August 12
    BC Local Emergency Planning Committee
    9 a.m. EMS Building, 53 State Road 46 East
  • August 12
    Blood drive scheduled at Parkview church
    2 to 7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • August 13
    BC photography club
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 15
    Rock & mineral club
    6 p.m. Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • August 15
    TRIAD annual picnic at Parkview church
    11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • August 15
    Kingdom fest at Nashville church
    1 to 4 p.m. Nashville United Methodist Church, 36 S. Jefferson St.
  • August 18
    Time for inner peace set at local church
    5:30 to 7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • August 23
    Live Baby Boomer music at tavern
    7 to 9 p.m. Pine Room, 51 E. Chestnut St.
  • August 24
    American history DVD set to air at library
    1 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • August 24
    American history DVD set to air at library
    1 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 18
    BucCornEar Festival fundraiser returns
    4 to 8 p.m. JTFD, 4831 Helmsburg Road, Helmsburg
  • September 19
    BucCornEar Festival fundraiser returns
    8 a.m. to 8 p.m. JTFD, 4831 Helmsburg Road, Helmsburg